Monday, May 30, 2011

Lesson 58: I Cross My Heart

With all the hype of the world coming to an end, I am sure you barely had time to check this blog as you've probably been spending your extra time in church, repenting and such.  Now that the date has come and gone, it has undoubtedly left some of you wondering if it was yet another Biblical false alarm or if you were one of the ones left behind. 

Unbeknownst to me, I must have been one of the chosen ones.  I didn't discover it until the Memorial Day picnic when a friend pointed it out to me.   I have the mark of the cross on me.  I can't believe it!  I never get picked for anything!  Eloise gets the big prize.  I'll put in a good word for all of you. 

Even though I try to keep my identity a secret and enjoy writing under my pen name, some super sleuths could probably search through the depths of this blog to have a guess as to what I look like.  One photo is from me in my hair monster years in the early 90's. Another is a photo of me with a friend, so you have Eloise narrowed down to two.  But you would be able to spot me in a crowd because I am the one with the cross around my neck.  I always wear one, cross my heart.  It is my preferred jewelry of choice. 

I like jewelry and usually never take it off, except for some pokey earrings when I sleep.  I've had one ring on my finger since my 16th birthday.  But as the years have gone on, I have narrowed my selections down to gold bands on my fingers (I'm way too hard on stone rings), and crosses around my neck.  I have a pretty nice collection going.  I like to pick them up from places I visit.  The crosses I get for gifts are my favorites.  They always look pretty no matter what you wear and they send a simple message to anyone you meet.  By simply wearing a cross you make the statement that you are a follower of Jesus, without having to utter a single word.  How beautiful.

My jewelry box is filling with crosses and I don't think I'll ever have too many.  I have a great big, stand up jewelry box now, with lots of drawers and hooks.  It is a far cry from my first one from years ago.  I still remember the lovely, carved wooden box I got from my dad for Christmas.  It had a hinged lid with a mirror on the inside.  The jewelry tray lifted out to reveal a hidden space underneath.  In fact, the velvet lined tray got so old that the glue let go and I could hide things underneath it; little mementos, keys, and cash.  The mirror eventually cracked and my college roommates got me a new one for my birthday.  My husband eventually replaced that one.  I still miss the original one though.  Sometimes the "firsts" are the best and they are hard to replace, no matter how hard you try.  Nothing compares to the original.

I put Scotty McCreery's rendition of the George Strait song, I Cross My Heart on here for two reasons.  The obvious one is that the song title goes perfectly with my blog post.  The second reason is that the words sung by our new American Idol remind me of my children.  The song is about unconditional love, which is a mother's love for a child--true and pure and conditional upon nothing.  If you haven't checked out the previous blog post, Lesson 57:  The Spice of My Life, please do.  Then you will see visually a mother's love for her children.  Just like the song says, "I cross my heart and promise to, give all I've got to give to make your dreams come true."

Scroll down to the bottom of this post after you listen to Scotty sing the song.  You will find a humorous weather report regarding our impending doom.  I'm not worried, nor shall my children be.  Once you are saved, then your faith is enough for everyone in your household.  We're good no matter what happens, kids.  I cross my heart and promise you that!

Stay out of trouble though, just in case,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lesson 57: The Spice of My Life

Heinz 57 has an advertising slogan that goes "Heinz 57--Variety is the spice of life."  For blog post number 57 I give to you the spice in my life, my children.  The above post is a collection of my favorite head shots (since my digital camera).  I don't need many words for this post.  The lyrics to the Dixie Chicks song Lullabye are perfect and the images set to the beautiful rhythms of Natalie Maines's voice will move you.  My children aren't just the spice of my life; they are my life.

How long do you want to be loved? 

Mother Eloise

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lesson 56: I Love You This Big

Eloise loves to summarize things.   I sure do like a good summary.  I know, I'm a nerd.  Most teachers are.  Consider summarization though.  It is an artfully honed skill to be able to condense a great big bite of life into a small digestible chunk.  The video posted above gives you a nice taste of how I've spent some of my life since January; watching the show and melting my iTunes cards.  The musical acts in the finale were superb.  It was great to see my old favorite TLC again.  Also, I didn't know Jack Black could sing that well.  And if you know where Lady Gaga got her hat, let me know because I want one.

This year the variety of musical styles appealed to many.  It even made my ten year old a rockin' hard Heavy Metal fan because of James Durbin.  We now have Ozzy, AC/DC, and Metallica in the kitchen CD player.  I guess we needed to mix it up at bit at our house.  Never a dull moment when your four year old requests Crazy Train---as in Ozzy Osbourne, not Thomas the Tank Engine.  My girls and I will look forward to following all of these finalists when they arrive in the Steel City on August 10th on their tour. 

A big hug from Eloise to the top three---Scotty, Lauren, and Haley.  Three teens who beat out all the rest of the competition to snag the top three spots.  In the words of Casey Abrams, another contestant commenting on their youth, "they still have Similac on their breath."  Impressive.  All have the potential to be in the music business for awhile, and even if you didn't watch the show, my followers can at least claim you saw them at the start of their careers here on this blog.

I was touched by how graciously Scotty McCreery accepted the title.  He kissed his competitor, and made his way down to individually hug each family member who was there to support him.  When asked if he had any thoughts on the win, he immediately gave thanks to the Lord first.  How admirable for a young man.  It speaks volumes for him not as a singer, but as a person.

I love everything about the show, except the name of it.  Americans should appreciate a good Cinderella story where common folk get a chance to make their dreams a reality.  I know I love a good one since I've always wanted to be Cinderella.  Idolize, though----I'm not so sure that is the best term.  Admire maybe, or respect, and maybe even envy, but I don't care for the Idol part.  I think I got a better name for the show.  If I got to suggest a name for this contest, I would call it Noteworthy.  Noteworthy--that is just what the contestants are---singers with a story behind them, who rise above the ranks.  They are truly Noteworthy in all angles of the interpretation.

Scotty McCreery's new song that will be released as the winner of Idol 2011 is titled I Love You This Big.  It is a great country tune sure to melt the hearts of fans all around the the world.  Listen for it.  I hope you can pick up a radio signal over there in Slovenia.  You don't want to miss it.   I am sure Scotty will be singing it to my daughters in August.  I am sure his voice is powerful enough to reach our seats in the nosebleed section where we usually sit. 

We Love You This Big, season 2011 contestants.  You've brought music into our homes and into our hearts.  You are truly Noteworthy.  Here are a couple of future Noteworthy contestants practicing for their big breaks in 2017 and 2023.  You have to be sixteen to try out for the show.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Lesson 55: LOST But Not Forgotten

It's been a rough year.  Twelve months is a long time to feel loss, and I don't think I'll be over it none too soon.  I've been doing okay navigating my murky life without him, but it just isn't the same.  My boat upon the water has become a raft I'm pulling through a muddy, green swamp.  There seems like there is nothing to look forward to because the fog surrounding the swamp is so thick.  I can't see the light of day, even from my perch here at The Lamp Post.  It's been a year since I lost him.  My hero.  Jack.

Jack, as in Jack Shepard,  the other man in my life.  The doctor from the TV show LOST, played by actor Matthew Fox.  There have been many a blog references to Jack through the inception of The Lamp Post, and there are bound to be more.  Save your eye rolling for later, because this one is good. 

Sometimes you fall in love with something and you don't know why. You can't explain it, but it runs deep in your soul.  That is how I fell in love with the TV show LOST and really haven't found anything to fill the void.  You've heard my constant urgings to watch the series, even to the most remote parts of Slovenia.  For those of you who have continued to ignore me, I put a short tutorial posted above, summing up the series for you in just 3 minutes.  Today marks the date of two special events in history:  the anniversary of the LOST finale one year ago, and the birth of my husband 42 years ago.  The title to this blog will tie both events together.  Don't believe me?  Read on.
I clearly remember 5-23-2010.  It was the date all LOST fans had anticipated and dreaded at the same time.  We wanted ANSWERS!  We wanted CLOSURE!  But that also meant that we took our right hand and flipped the back cover to the left.  That's closure for sure because the story was over.  There would be no more.  We'd finally have our ending, but then it was time to put the book away.  Shelve it until we were ready to look though it again and could do so with a smile. 

There were few people who stuck with the show from beginning to end.  My friend Tracy from Fort Mill, SC was one of them.  She was the one who bugged and pestered me to watch it. She was so utterly convinced I would love it that she told me that she thought I wrote the show.  Well that pricked my ears up.  I was a LOST- late bloomer, so to speak.  I ended up purchasing the first two seasons, watched them over a summer vacation, and picked up on the series during its third year.  I convinced my mother to do the same thing, and she followed my advice (for once) and became a fan.  So it was for my mom and I that I had my LOST finale party--Party For Two. 

I went all out decorating the house with LOST memorabilia.  My mother actually made a scrapbook of all of our favorite articles, quotes, blog posts, and magazine clippings about the show.  We had pulled pork sandwiches (roasted boar), fresh pineapple, and a bucket of Mr. Cluck's Chicken.  Ellen even made an island themed LOST cake, complete with people standing on top and a drowning Jin and Sun.   I spent way too much money for way too little alcohol for the party.  I bought $30 of those little liquor bottles that you can buy at the check out counter at the State Stores.  They are the kind that you get on airplanes.  Mom and I had them all lined up and toasted the show throughout the finale.  It was the one and only time I can recall doing shots with my own mother. I loved the ending.  I can summarize it in just one word:  beautiful.

The next day I took a personal day from work.  I had planned that in advance knowing that I would most likely re watch the finale again into the wee hours of the night.  Well, that and the fact of those tiny airliner sized bottles of alcohol--what is that rule about not mixing beverages?  I guess Dharma beer and vodka don't work well together.  I still went in to work the following Monday, well, sort of.  It was the day we had decided to give our daughter Natalie a tour of the Junior High School and meet the students in her middle level autism class.  I was a bit bleary eyed from too little sleep and too much alcohol.  My eyes were puffy from crying watching my hero Jack die.  Mr. Fritts, Natalie's teacher picked up on my subdued demeanor and said to me, "It's okay to be a little apprehensive.  Lots of parents get that way at transition time.  Don't worry, Natalie will be happy here."  I snorted and laughed and said, "Oh, no.  I haven't been crying over that.  I trust you.  I'm sad because my favorite show is over and my hero died."  Sniffle, sniffle, sniff, sniff.  That was me having another breakdown at the mere mention of it again.  Great way to make a first impression.  Everyone is forgivable in autism land though.  They've seen it all.

So my show is LOST, both literally and figuratively.  It is gone but not forgotten.  Something else I'll never forget is how I met my husband.  The short version is we met in North East where we both began our teaching careers.  The long version is a bit different and far more entertaining.  It is my most requested story to be told, so here's the blogified version:

I was in my senior year of college working my #$% off, finishing up my courses and working two waitressing jobs.  I worked at Pizza Hut and Marketplace Grill.  I was a far better pizza slinger than a Marketplace Grill server.  Pizza joints are more my thing.  It's really hard to mess up a pizza order.  I'm not the fancy restaurant type.  It was hard to work there because learning the menu alone was difficult.  It was a great place to eat because you had so many options.  Servers were tested not only on the menu items, but had to learn the ingredients and how the dishes were made, too.  Plus, the customers at Marketplace were a bit more finicky.  They never were satisfied with what was offered on the menu--they always had to order something a little special--like hold this or that---or please put my hollendaise sauce on the side.  It was ANNOYING.  I wanted to scream, "just pick off your own damn tomato!" but I refrained because the money was so good.  I sucked it up. 

On one insanely busy day in October 1992, due to a teacher convention at the Erie Civic Center, we were slammed at the restaurant.  A flood of teachers rushed the door to grab a "quick bite to eat" on their lunch hour.  Sorry, colleagues.  No such thing when 70% of your work force happens to be salad eating women.  The cold line chefs were slammed.  Didn't Eloise happen to get a table full of teachers from North East, the exact school district I had been assigned to for the upcoming spring for student teaching.  "Wow!  How opportune!", I thought.  "What a great way to make a first impression."  I guess I thought wrong.

The lunches were backed up and I tried to distract my table full of teachers with funny lunchtime fodder.  I was perky, and chatty, and humorous on the outside and cringing on the inside knowing the foul words that were flying around the kitchen behind those double doors.  Chefs get a little testy under pressure.  Unbeknownst to me, another customer joined the table late and I didn't notice him.  It was a young man and I realized he had been sitting there far too long to even place an order.  I kept signaling to him that I'd be right there, when he hollered over, "Just get me a chocolate milk shake!"  "No problem," I mouthed back.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.  Hell yes there was a problem and I sure did catch hell for it later.  Chocolate milkshakes were not on the menu at Marketplace Grill.  The menu was vast and had something to appeal to just about everyone's fine dining pleasure, BUT NO CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKES!  By the time I figured this out by backing up the computer system for the entire restaurant searching for it, it was too late.  The only thing I could find that was even close to Chocolate Milkshake was "Kids Chocolate Sundae."  I punched that in the computer and decided to take matters into my own hands.  I'd make that guy his friggin milkshake myself and deal with the consequences of ringing in a false order later.

If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you know what it is like behind those swinging doors when things are slamming.  There's lots of hustle and bustle, tension, and foul language. First I asked the bartender if we had a glass for a milkshake.  "We don't sell milkshakes, you idiot!" was his reply.  "I know that," I said, "and may I borrow the blender?"  He told me to get out of his way and I think he meant it, so I bagged the blender idea and snatched some sort of tall, cylindrical glass from behind the bar on my way through.  I still don't know what kind of drink really goes in it because I only drink beer.  It's still a mystery. 

Next, I inquired to the dessert chef if we had any ice cream.  The dessert chef, who was assisting the Cold Line salad guy who was neck deep in House Orientals said to me, "put two and two together and make five, Sweetheart.  Where did I think we'd keep the ice cream?"  "The freezer?" I asked, innocently inflecting my voice in the end hoping to win her over a bit so she'd make me a milkshake on the fly.  "What do you need ice cream for?" she barked.  "A chocolate milkshake," I replied as I made my way into the freezer.  "We don't sell chocolate milkshakes!" she yelled, and threw a spoon at me.  I retrieved the spoon from the dirty, sticky floor and shoved it in my apron pocket. 

I found the ice cream in the DEEP freezer.  Man was it cold in there and boy did it keep that ice cream rock hard.  I pried the lid off of a great big container of vanilla and tried to figure out how I was going to get it out of there.  Hey!  What luck!  The spoon!  I literally chipped my way through that drum of ice cream with the nice dirty spoon (Note to Health Department--this was 1992 if you have to trace back any food born illnesses).  By the time I had the glass nearly filled I was sweating. 

On the way out of the freezer I asked Chef Sunshine if she happened to have any chocolate syrup.  I am pretty good at picking up facial cues and I knew I was walking a fine line, but I had a customer to deal with.  She pointed a fat finger in the direction of a cooler and much to my surprise, I found a plastic, half used bottle of Hershey's syrup.  "We use Hershey's syrup?" was my only intelligent response,  really to no one.  If you know me, I am known for thinking out loud.  I squirted some in and began the chopping process to get that hard ice cream to blend.  It was kind of like a brown lava flow because I filled the glass too full and everything was slopping over the sides and I was making a huge mess in a very busy part of a very busy kitchen.  I felt a heavy palm on my shoulder squeeze me a touch too hard and said, "GET OUT OF HERE!  AND BY THE WAY, PETER IS LOOKING FOR YOU!"  Oh crap, Peter was the owner.

Just didn't it happen to be my luck that all of my orders would come up and be ready to be delivered whilst I was making the makeshift milkshake.  I tried to sneak my way out of there, but he caught me red handed, with my dripping concoction leaving me red faced, too.  "What is THAT?" the owner asked me.  "A chocolate milkshake," I replied.  You know the line by now, readers, so say it with me, "We don't sell chocolate milkshakes."  I slinked off.

By then, my table full of people I was trying to impress was looking tense.  They had about five minutes to eat and signalled for the bills.  I delivered Mr. Milkshake his drink, dripping with chocolate, sweating, and my pony tail was crooked.  He said, "I'll take my bill, too."  He looked nervous and stood up without even taking one sip of my masterpiece.  This pissed off Eloise.  Pissy, pissy Eloise.

I tried to divide the bills and I was so upset I screwed up the computer.  That made the line in the restaurant even longer and made the naturally timely teachers even a little more impatient.  I can spot a fake, teacher smile from a mile away.  All those toothy grins were gleaming in my direction.  Mr. Milkshake was last and I knew there would be no way for him to pay for a menu item that did not exist, so I waved him along and said, "Go.  Just go.  I got this.  Consider this my apology for your poor service."  So he left, without leaving me a tip, may I add.

I was cleaning up the aftermath when I was informed that I needed to stay after work to talk with the owner.  Great.  While I mentally prepared for my walking papers, the Chef Sunshine yelled out, "Who's sundae is this?"  And there sitting on the cold line was the "kids chocolate sundae" I punched in nearly 45 minutes before that.  One of the Reese's cup ears had fallen off and the cherry nose was bleeding.  It looked hideous, and I had the urge to punch it.  I grabbed the sundae and deposited the whole thing upside down in the garbage can, dessert glass and all.  It felt good and besides, I was getting fired anyway.

The owner had a long talk with me about my organizational skills and that I needed to improve them.  He also told me that he should fire me on the spot for my poor decision making, but I was just too darn likable.  His only option was to put me through the training program again with all the new recruits, although I had been working there for awhile.  I apologized and thanked him for his patience, but on the long ride home, I decided that I had enough.  I went back in the next day and gave my two weeks notice.  I quit.  I hated that job and it was really the only job I ever disliked.  It was also the only thing I ever quit in my life.  Nothing ever felt natural for me to be there.  It was truly work for me to be a fine dinging server.  I was trying to be something I wasn't and it just wasn't working. I worked for a few more days, then suddenly my name no longer appeared on the schedule, so I assumed my stint as "nice restaurant waitress" was over.  I don't think anyone there was too heartbroken.  I picked up extra shifts at my true blue-collar love, Pizza Hut, and I was all the happier for it.  The money wasn't as important as my own sanity.  The restaurant closed down awhile ago. I guess they just couldn't make a go of it without me.  Maybe if they would have just added chocolate milkshakes to the menu they could have survived this economic slump.

Six months later, I was getting introduced to all of the teaching staff at Heard Elementary School in North East.  I was taken room to room by my cooperating teacher Mrs. Wright.  She told me that she saved the room on the end for last because there was a new, young teacher in there that I may like to talk to.  He was writing something on the blackboard and as soon as he turned in my direction, I knew it was him--Mr. Milkshake.

Later that day we ate lunch together.  I took a seat at the end of the table, and in Mr. Milkshake walked, "Out of my seat, Rookie!" he said.  I moved over a chair and thought, "Man, this guy is a real piece of work."  We chatted and ate and watched the kids play at recess out of the window and I could see in the relection that he was sending extra glances in my direction.  He stopped me on the way out of lunch and said, "You look so familar.  Have we met before?"  And the rest they say is history, because I married that man  sixteen months later.  I'm a teacher so I know how history can easily fade from your memory, but some things are just impossible to forget.  I guess I made a better first impression the second time around.  As for him, you know what I said before, everything is forgivable (but not necessarily forgotten).

Happy birthday, Louie.  I'll have your chocolate milkshake waiting for you after school--just the way you like it--resembling a lava flow.  You can leave me a tip this time, too. 


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lesson 54: Born to Fly

Happy 13th Birthday, Natalie!  Look!  She even made the cover of the Pier 1 Imports catalog!  Scroll further down the blog for more pictures of Natalie.

Mother Eloise had a bit of fun altering the above photo of my now-teenaged daughter.  The chair on the cover is her birthday gift.  Natalie is like her mommy in many respects.  She resembles me the most out of my children and she LOVES to be outside.  Swinging is one of her favorite pass times.  We bought her this chair to hang on our deck so she can sit and swing all summer long.   It has a little roof to shade her fair skin from the sun and cup holders on either arm rest to hold her nice cool drink. 

We let the kids drink more pop than usual in the summertime and Natalie prefers Sprite.  Natalie isn't known for being a detail freak, so she usually just grabs a shiny, green can out of the garage refrigerator after we affirm her "Pop is good, mom" statement/question.  Once in awhile her inattention to detail stings her because she'll mistakenly grab one of MY shiny, green cans I keep in there on occasion--Rolling Rocks.  We usually hear a guttural scream "IT'S ALL YUCKY!" and she comes running at us wiping her tongue.  Guess the German genetics aren't coming into play yet.  Maybe she'll like the vino like her Italian relatives someday.

Someday.....hmmmm.....what will that bring?  I can't venture to guess and I am trying not to for fear of limiting her.  In 13 years, Natalie has already far surpassed our expectations from when we received the Autism/Mental Retardation diagnosis at age 2.  Years of therapy, the Barber National Institute, and many, many patient people have allowed Natalie to bloom and flourish.  Today, Natalie enjoys people, is a cheerleader for the Harbor Creek Sparkles program, ice skates with the Gliding Stars, can read, and takes dance lessons at Keri's Dance Studio.  This year her routine is to Love Shack.  I loved how the cover shot of the Pier 1 catalog had a B-52ish girl on the front.  Natalie's dance costume looks kind of like that.  Now if she'll just let me do her hair in the bump-it, we'll be all set.

Natalie has taken to the liking of counting money lately, and on several occasions has cleaned out all of the wallets and piggy banks in our entire house, unbeknownst to us.  Ellen opened one of  their purses to find it stuffed with cash.  She inquired as to where Natalie got all of the money.  Upon a quick search we found the little thief cleaned us out.  To our amazement she looked at us and said, "OOOHHHHH.  Look at money.  Go shopping."  Natalie is really hard to be mad at.

The autism outlook at the turn of the millennium was grim.  Kids were getting diagnosed every day, and the prognosis wasn't good.  Even today's autism numbers are staggering, 1 out of every 99 and one in every 50 families.  Wow.  Programs to help these unique individuals were just getting up and running and there was not much long term data to draw from.  I never believed that Natalie would be sitting in a corner rocking, banging her head and biting herself for long.  No, way.  No, how.  Not if Mother Eloise had anything to do with it.  I've been told I'm stubborn lately.  In this instance, by bullheadedness was a good thing.  I refused to give up.

There was a period of time when she quit looking at me.  So I did what any good mother would do--I sat on top of her one day and put my forehead to hers and held it there until she looked into my eyes.  I just heard her teacher, Mr. Fritts cringe when he read this and look up the number to Children's Services.  He used to be her Behavior Specialist before he was her teacher.  Although this is in line with behavior training drills, I doubt this is exactly what her had in mind when he trained me many years ago.  When she would meet my gaze with her big, pools of blue, I would spin her around which she loved.  I then would make her hold my gaze for three seconds, then five, then ten, and as long as she could without blinking before I reinforced her.  As she grew, my back could no longer take the spinning, so we switched to bubbles.  After the bubble build-up made my kitchen floor became treacherous, we didn't need reinforcements any longer.  Just my attention was enough.  Mission accomplished.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that Natalie reminded me of a butterfly.  She sang the song Butterfly Fly Away by Miley Cyrus for the beauty pageant Little Miss Lovely, she was in this past February.  During her childhood, Natalie reminded me of that caterpillar--an awkward, twichy thing that ate all of the time (in Natalie's case, McDonald's french fries).  It seems that she spun herself a little cocoon that she is now emerging from.  She's hanging there (maybe in her swing chair) with wet wings, ready to spread them.  She was born to fly and who am I to stop her?

The song posted below is from American Idol this season.  It is from one of our early favorites who has rode the fame train all the way to the semi finals--Lauren Alaina.  This spectacular Georgia sixteen year old did a great rendition of Sara Evans' song Born to Fly.  I actually believe Lauren's version is better than the original.  Take a listen and judge for yourselves.  I have my idol ticket vouchers in my fireproof box already.  Natalie will be going to see her in Pittsburgh on August 10th.  When you get to this lyric, "I've been tellin' my dreams to a scarecrow, of the places that I want to see, I said "Friend do you think I'll ever get there?" and he just stands there smilin' back at me."  Then check out the picture of Natalie and Erik at their ice show with those ridiculous straw hats on and it will make you laugh. 

You can bet my little butterfly will have this song and many others loaded onto her brand new iPod touch she won at her Autism Talent show last week.  Yep.  Natalie won the grand prize!  I can just see her now, sitting in her swing, listening to her favorite tunes, with an ice cold Rolling Rock in the cup holder.  See, I told you she is just like her Momma. 

The Lord works in mysterious ways.  The impairment of a child is one of life's biggest disappointments, but in many regards it has brought us great joy.  We celebrate our successes and don't sweat the small stuff.  We don't set limits on ourselves or our children.  We believe anything is possible through hard work and the blessings of our Good Lord.

So, in the questions sung by young Lauren Alaina,
But how do you wait for heaven?
And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet on the ground
When you know that you were born,
You were born to fly?

Here is your answer, Natalie:  You have all the time in the world, my dear daughter, and one of the most patient mothers known to man.  Take your sweet old time, sweet girl.  Spread your wings when you are ready and don't let me hold you back.  You don't have to keep your feet on the ground, because baby, you were born to fly.

Fly baby, fly,
Mother Eloise

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lesson 53: I Fight On

I'm stuck.  I made a public promise.  I vowed to stick with it to the end.  For better or worse.  No matter how long and hard the road, I was committed.  In it to win it.  Win the war that is.  And boy, oh boy, has it been a battle.  My marriage?  Nope.  War and Peace.  My book.

Eloise finds herself smack dab in the middle of Russian history and Napoleonic Wars.  Well...........not exactly smack dab in the MIDDLE of 1,386 pages.  I've honestly admitted I am not good at math but decent enough to know that would bring me to about 693.  I'm on page 40.  It's been a slow go.

Given that I am such a whiz at math, I calculated that by reading at this rate since beginning the book on April 5, 2011, I will finish it on May 30th, 2015.  Ellen will be finishing up her reign at the Junior High by then.  Maybe it will be on the Harbor Creek High School summer reading list for entering 9th graders and I can help her out.  Never hurts to be prepared.

I know I just picked up 30 Russian blog followers and certainly don't want to insult your boy Tolstoy, but this book just defies all rules of story writing.  What happened to the rule about not muddling the plot with too many characters early on?  Not to mention that every character needs a pronunciation guide to go along with it.  Try picking your way through Katkov, Drubetsky, Pavlovna, and Bolkonsky at 11:00 at night.  No need to count sheep at the Lamp Post anymore.  What about the run-on sentence?  I know it's a translated work and all, but come on, a 57 word sentence?  I wonder what the scorers of the PSSA writing tests would say to this:  Meanwhile all the younger generation, Boris, the officer, Anna Milhalovna's son; Nikolay, the student, the Count's elder son; Sonya, the Count's nieces; and little Petya, his younger son, had all placed themselves about the drawing room, and were obviously trying to restrain within the bounds of decorum the excitement and mirth which was brimming over their faces.    Go ahead.  Count 'em yourself.  This covers the "too many character" thing, too.

That wasn't the sentence that got me off on the wrong foot though.  It was one that he used in a conversation of two of the main characters.  The young males were discussing marriage.  Read this:  But tie yourself up with a woman, and, like a chained convict, you lose all freedom.  And all the hope and strength there is in you is only a drag on you, torturing you with regret.........No, don't marry my dear fellow, don't marry!  Ladies, I smell a bit of a chauvinist.  Do you? 

Our brains activate when we read and we conjure up images of the words on the pages.  Little movies go on in our heads when we read and the pictures are drawn from people we know and our own past experiences.  Oddly enough, one of the characters in the beginning is Princess Ellen.  I told my daughter this, and she was very pleased.  I don't know what kind of character Tolstoy's Ellen will turn out to be, but thus far she "has a lovely head sitting upon statuesque shoulders."  Not quite the wording I'd use for my own little princess, but she's lovely just the same.  The Count Somethingorotheretsky keeps appearing and all I can picture is the one from Sesame Street.  I've had 13 years straight of Sesame Street, so forgive me.  After that I don't have much Russian history to draw from.  Well, except for Rocky IV, that is.

I have a penchant for boxing for some reason.  I guess I like a good fight.  The Rocky movies are some of my all time favorites.  The misplaced flower child has an inner feisty that I can't fight at times, pun fully intended.  So here is a clip of the final fight between Rocky and Drago.  I hate to blow the ending, but Russians, this was probably censored in your country, so here's a hint:  the end doesn't work out so well for you all.

So, inspired by my hero, Rocky Balboa, I too shall fight my Russian beast.  His name isn't Drago; it's Tolstoy.  I'm stuck because I gave my word, and I'm not a girl who goes back on it no matter how much it sucks.  Is 40 too soon to make that decision to continue to fight or to call it a day?  I'll read a little more and see how it goes.  Watch for an update.  Summer's coming--lots of late nights reading out on my porch swing.  Drive by some evening local followers, and you'll see my light--my book light, that is.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lesson 52: As Sick as a Dog

Eloise had an unexpected turn of events this weekend and I switched up my intended Mother's Day Post.  My life's greatest accomplishments, Natalie, Ellen, and Sam are the perfect topics for a Mother's Day post, no doubt.  I could write a book about life's lessons learned from my own mother and would love to share her funny nuggets of wisdom (Helenisms I call them) with you today.  But is was my fourth child, my biracial daughter that put an arrow through my heart this weekend and gets recognition on today's post--my black lab Josie. 

Josie is not laying at my feet, snoozing to the clicking of the keyboard as she usually does when I write.  She's in the Animal Hospital with an acute case of doggie pancreatitis.  Our van turned into a makeshift ambulance this morning when my husband made a quick trip through the city to get her there.  Josie began vomiting Thursday and worsened as the week went on.  By last night she was unable to hold down even a few laps of water for more than 30 seconds.  She could no longer stand on her legs by morning.  Josie was truly, "sick as a dog."

That got Eloise a-thinkin' about the origin of that saying, "sick as a dog."  In a quick internet search, and I mean quick because I was busy asking Mr. Google about "pancreatitis in dogs", some claim to have traced the term back to 17th century England.  Apparently when the Brits are under the weather with just a little malady like the sniffles, they are "ill."  The term "sick" is used when vomiting is involved.  I don't know if that is still the case or not, but it makes sense.  Eloise just may shoot a quick e-mail off to Willie and Cate and see if that is true.  The prince and princess are making themselves a bit more accessible to the public than their predecessors, so maybe one of them will answer me.  Cate was spotted grocery shopping the other day, you know.

If you are a dog lover such as myself, you know the pain of watching a furry friend suffer.  Although our canine companions cannot speak our language, they speak to you with their eyes, and I could see her pain and distress in Josie's.  There was nothing more to do at 4:00 am besides lay with her and wait until morning.  I drug my sleeping bag out to the kitchen floor and spooned her, my arm draped over her swollen side.  Her whimpers ceased and her breathing slowed a bit.  We were both able to sleep for at least a little while.

Crazy you say?  Obviously pets aren't viewed the same way in Slovenia.  Americans reading this blog get me.  My pet has become part of my family and yes, I do feel like her mother.  She was the easiest birth I ever had. 

So my original blog idea flew right out the window with all of my Mother's Day plans.  I was too (sad, worried, depressed, guilt ridden--you choose the verb because any apply) to head out for our planned family bike ride this morning or brave the Peach Street traffic for a mall invasion with the girls.  Writing about your worries is a form of "venting", so I am beginning to feel better already and recognizing that Josie is in good hands--so maybe this afternoon you'll catch us pedaling around.

But for the most part, it has been a lazy day for me, not as productive or "happy memory making" as I had hoped.  But a lazy day every once in awhile is OK, I've recently learned.  Not every single second needs to be filled with doing something.  There is a nice sunny spot on my couch right now as the May sunshine streams through the window here at the Lamp Post.  Maybe I'll just couch it with the kids for a bit.  A lazy song posted above for a lazy Mother's Day afternoon for me. 

Ladies, you can tell that it is obvious this song is sung by a man (Bruno Mars), as well as written by one.  It seems the song writer has had many days such as the one being sung about.  One writes best through personal experience, right?  Sounds like this guy had lots of practice couching it and doing nothing.   For the moms out there, you know those days are few and far between.  A mother's job never ends.  Even if it means cleaning up hula-hoop size piles of dog vomit all weekend long. 

Praise to all you mother's out there as well as to all of you dog lovers.  Owning a pet is like being a parent.  When you bring home that little Fido or Rex, you are invested, not only in cash but in love.  I am not one to offer any sort of financial advice, but I do know if you do invest in a dog, they pay off is there for you. 

Ruff, Woof, Bow Wow, and Yap (for the chihuahua lovers),